Boots Riley makes a remarkable return to the media festival South by Southwest (SXSW). The first four episodes of “I’m a Virgo,” debuted at the festival. The show follows a 13-foot-tall black man named Cootie venturing to the heart of Oakland, where he finds love and friendship. Cootie has been sheltered from civilization until he’s finally called upon to join the Oakland community. The story evolves as Cootie is exposed to his powerful idol, “The Hero.” The astonishing universe crafted by Riley provides a sci-fi base with built-in mysteries that will intrigue audiences.
The mystical world of “I’m a Virgo” has a core deeply rooted in humanity. The spark of humanity is ignited by the tremendous acting performances done by the cast. Jharrel Jerome plays Cootie with a childlike wonder that allows the audience to connect with him easily. He’s an outsider looking in, and you cannot help but root for him as he builds his life in the city. Olivia Washington plays Cootie’s love interest, who works at the local burger joint. Washington’s chemistry with Jerome is unbreakable. Their love connection feels natural as they see each other for who they truly are. A one-of-a-kind performance comes from newcomer Kara Young. She plays one of Cootie’s friends, who is crucial to dismantling the constraints of society’s rules. Young is a new actress on the television landscape who comes from Harlem. Her New York roots give her character a cool edge that dares to change the status quo. Every participating actor boosts the viability of Riley’s dialogue.
“I’m a Virgo” is fueled by its whimsical soundtrack curated by Tune-Yards. Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner spearhead the music venture. The duo is based in Oakland and worked with Riley on the radical film “Sorry to Bother You” in 2018. This time, Tune-Yards created an out-of-this-world musical symphony that plays in every episode. The sounds offer a peek into Cootie’s mind. The score is unique and bizarre, just like Cootie’s story. Tune-Yards used a modified version of percussion to produce the newfound sounds. The unorthodox use of percussion elevates the listener to a foreign dimension where a 13-foot-tall giant roams the streets of Oakland.
The costumes designed by the brilliant Deidra Elizabeth Govan catch the audience’s attention. Govan has had her hand in various Hollywood productions. Her handmade outfits are eye-catching yet eccentric. She uses bold colors to create liveliness for our characters. The costumes for every character are visually striking. Each piece created for Cootie represents a layer of his fascinating personality. The clothing allows Cootie to express himself wholeheartedly. Cootie was never molded by society for 18 years like his peers. His mind is free from the pressures of society. In “I’m a Virgo,” every character operates outside society’s rules and exudes that with their fashion. The exuberant costumes created by the brilliant Deidra Elizabeth Govan attract the viewer’s attention.
Amazon Prime Video will be the home for “I’m a Virgo” in early summer 2023. The premise alone should sell you on the show, as it’s producing something entirely original. Series with otherworldly elements need a strong heart at their center to hold up their validity.
Cootie is the heart of the show that keeps everything flowing smoothly. He is deeply rooted in humanity as he represents the viewer. Cootie strives to be accepted by the eye of humanity. Everybody craves acceptance from the outside world. “Fitting in” is an innate human trait we all share with Cootie. Society is prone to assigning individuals a label. Your perception of yourself may not line up with your given label. Cootie wants to be perceived as a kind-hearted person with an urge for adventure. However, some people only see him as a horrifying fairy tale. There is nothing inherently scary about a giant. The horrors lie within people’s assumptions when they see a 13-foot-tall young black man. Cootie is an inspiration because he subverts his label by being 100% himself, no matter what his label dictates. “I’m a Virgo” shows the audience that the human experience is defined by living your life the way you want.
Verdict: “I’m a Virgo” takes a fantastical approach to tell a coming-of-age story that uncovers the highs and lows of humankind. The soon-to-be streaming series should be added to your summer watchlist.